Medical cannabis shows great promise in treating cancer, auto-immune diseases – SA research

Dr Shiksha Gallow is a medical scientist and doctor in clinical pathology. She is also medical director for JSE-listed Labat’s Biodata – a division which is undertaking groundbreaking research on the use of medical cannabis to treat serious illnesses ranging from cancer to autoimmune diseases. She spoke to Jackie Cameron of BizNews about why cannabis has healing properties – and what her research is showing so far about shrinking tumours and pushing people who are gravely ill into remission. – Jackie Cameron

Dr Shiksha Gallow on her medical background:

I’m actually qualified as a medical scientist, where I started looking more at science behind the medicines. I’ve got a PhD in clinical pathology, which is also in medical science. Clinical pathology is where we look more at diagnosis. It was an interesting journey because I have many degrees – one of a Masters of Medicine and Public Health Medicine and a Masters in Medical Science – and, as I mentioned, an MBA. Then the two PhDs – one of them is also in medical cannabis.

After learning a lot about the allopathic side of medicines, I was quite interested to learn more about the holistic side of medicine. I felt that people are taking all these allopathic medicines, but actually nobody’s getting cured and getting better. They’re just staying on these medicines and I see patients deteriorating.

On allopathic medicines:

Allopathic [medicine] is more your traditional pharmaceutical medicines – your normal pharmaceutical drugs. Your blood pressure medicine or your morphine for pain. [We look at] all of that as allopathic medicine. Natural medicine is the other side of the coin.

On facets of body chemistry that are similar to cannabis:

There are basically four or five endocannabinoids that the body produces. The two main ones that I want to talk about is your anandamide and your 2-Arachidonoylglycerol. Now these cannabinoids are very important because it stimulates the immune system, which is what is what we need to fight any diseases. What we found in medicine, most of the diseases that we found – the reasons for them – is an endocannabinoid deficiency.

Normally when a baby is born we normally say, please breastfeed that baby. The reason why we say we need the baby breast fed is [that] the highest amount of endocannabinoids are found in breast milk. That’s how important endocannabinoids [are for] immunity and forming all your organs and resulting in homeostasis. What is the link now between this endocannabinoid system, the medical cannabis or the cannabis plant?

As life goes on, we have stresses in the body. We have things we eat that are not correct. We have toxins that build up in the body and that’s what creates diseases. What we have found is the phyto cannabinoids – what we call the extracts out of the cannabis plant – mimic the endocannabinoids in the body. We also have receptors in the body called cb1 and cb2 receptors in the body. When you actually take medical cannabis from the plant itself, the body recognises this as its own endocannabinoids and you have it unlocking the potential for healing.

On the effects of endocannabinoids on the body:

These endocannabinoids receptors are actually the most abundant protein receptors in the brain and your organ systems. For example, cb1 receptors are based in your brain and your central nervous system areas. Your cb2 receptors are based in the peripheral organs and your immune system. So once you take medical cannabis – what I like to call that is phytocannabinoids – it then unlocks it and your own endocannabinoids starts increasing – that is your anandamide and your 2-Arachidonoylglycerol that I spoke about.

Once this starts increasing, the body starts to heal. For example, your anandamide is known as your bliss molecule, the molecule which starts making you feel happy – similar to your serotonin in your body. If you look at patients that take it recreationally, they always have a sense of relaxation and happiness. That comes from increasing your own endocannabinoids into the body.

On the differences between pharmaceutical drugs and medical cannabis:

The difference between pharmaceutical and medical cannabis, is [that] pharmaceutical drugs work on a single system and single receptor sites. Cannabis will work on the entire endocannabinoid system level. This establishes and maintains a health at the nexus of homeostasis. What it means is we are regulating multiple systems simultaneously with the medical cannabis.

Whereas [with] the pharmaceutical drugs, [it’s] only working with a single receptor site. Hence, when you’re taking medical cannabis, yes, you can take it for pain. But at the same time, when you’re taking it for pain, it is also healing the body. When you take a Panado, for example, it is just stopping or blocking that pain receptor site and stopping your pain.

With medical cannabis, it’s going to stop your pain. But because it’s regulating multiple systems simultaneously, it’s also going to start healing the body. That is what we’ve been investigating. Looking at how to manage diseases like cancer and arthritis – all sorts of diseases. That is the basis of the science that I want people to understand, because there is definitely science behind this. It’s not a snake oil and one size fits all. It’s science that we use for each of these diseases and how it works on the body.

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